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PERS disability benefits

PERS members who are unable to work because of a serious illness or injury can apply for a PERS disability benefit. The benefit provides income while your employee is not able to work.

This webpage provides an overview of PERS disability benefits and answers to common questions. For complete information and instructions, read employer reporting guide 14, Disability Benefits.

Two types of disability benefits: Tier One/Tier Two and OPSRP

The disability criteria, rules, and benefits are different for members of the Tier One and Tier Two PERS plans and OPSRP.

  • For Tier One and Tier Two members, the disability benefit is a retirement. They receive their pension and Individual Account Program (IAP) as though they were able to work until retirement age.
  • For OPSRP members, disability is not a retirement; rather, it is a benefit that provides monthly pay equaling 45% of their last full month’s salary. The benefit continues until the employee becomes age-eligible for regular service retirement. At that time, they may apply for retirement and begin receiving their PERS pension and IAP, which is calculated as though they were able to work until retirement age.

Two categories of disability: duty and non-duty

An employee may qualify for disability benefits whether they were hurt or became sick on the job or not. The two types of disability are separated into two categories that have different rules:

  • Duty disability: The employee’s disease or injury occurred while working and their job was a contributing factor.
  • Non-duty disability: The employee’s disease or injury is not related to their job.

Applying for benefits

The employee initiates the request for disability benefits. They must stop working before they can apply, so as soon as they are physically off the job, they should call PERS Member Services at 888-320-7377 and request an application packet.

Questions and answers

To help you understand how the program works, here are some common questions that employers ask about PERS disability. (Note: These answers are general — for more detail, go to “learn more” below for a list of resources.)

Q: Are disability benefits the same for everyone?

A: No. The disability criteria, rules, and benefits are different for Tier One/Tier Two and OPSRP.

  • Tier One/Tier Two disability retirement: Tier One and Tier Two members who become too sick or injured to work are eligible to apply for a disability retirement. They receive their pension and Individual Account Program (IAP) account, which are calculated as though they had been able to work until retirement age.
  • OPSRP disability benefits: OPSRP members are not eligible for a disability retirement; instead, they are eligible to apply for a disability benefit that provides monthly payments during their period of disability that equal 45% of their last full month’s salary. The benefit continues until the employee reaches normal retirement age and becomes eligible for a regular service retirement. At that time, they may apply for retirement and begin receiving their PERS pension and IAP retirement benefits, which are calculated as though they had worked until retirement age.

Q: Can anyone apply?

A: No. It depends on the cause of your disability, which is categorized as one of the following.

  • Duty disability: If their PERS employment is the primary contributing cause of the employee’s disability, they may apply for disability retirement regardless of their length of service
  • Non-duty disability: If their PERS employment is not the primary contributing cause of their disability, the employee must have 10 years of PERS service time in order to apply. If an employee is close to 10 years, however, they should check with PERS to see if they have sufficient service time.

Q: How does a PERS member qualify for disability?

A: To qualify for disability retirement or benefits, the PERS member must be totally, not partially, disabled and unable to perform any work for which they are qualified for at least 90 days. As soon as they are on leave, if their doctor feels they need to be off work, the sick or injured employee should contact PERS Member Services to talk about whether they qualify for disability (888-320-7377, Monday through Friday).

Q: Can an employee keep working (e.g., part time, light duty) until they find out if they are approved for disability?

A: No. Your employee cannot apply until they have stopped working.

Q: What is the employer’s role in helping the employee apply for disability?

A: Once the PERS Disability Team receives the employee’s completed application packet, they will send a request for information via your EDX Work List. You need to reply as soon as possible to not delay the start of benefits.

If you are an education employer and close your administrative offices for summer break, please ensure that you have people listed on your EDX Contacts List who are available to complete member disability forms during summer break.

Learn more

For complete information about disability retirement and disability benefits, read employer guide 14, Disability Benefits .

For your employees, direct them to the PERS Member Disability webpage.